This post was first published on my Swedish blog as “En vanlig dag som volontär på Chipangali”
So, what did I really do volunteering on Chipangali for a whole month? The following is a completely regular day for a volunteer:
0730 – Breakfast
Most days we were so spoiled so they actually cooked breakfast for us – usually it was eggs in some kind or other (they eat an enormous amount of eggs!) and toast. You could always find cornflakes, milk and fruit, in case that was your preference. On Mondays we had to make our own breakfasts, which usually resulted in me only chewing on a piece of bread! Lazy as I am I simply couldn’t be bothered! 🙂
0800 – Work day start
Volunteering on Chipangali meant you were responsible for ”the babies” and “the nursery”. There were some smaller animals, who needed more attention than others; some were hurt, some newborn and others were just simply in need of food more often.
Instructions on the wall – how to take care of “the babies”.
While writing this (roughly about a month ago) us volunteers, had following animals to care for:
Cilla – serval, male
Cilla was my favourite. He is/was pretty shy and hissed at most people, most times, so I made it my mission to calm him, to stabilise him and make him my (and others’) friend. Some more words will be written about him and servals, while introducing some of the inhabitants of Chipangali.
6 Spotted Gray Eagle Owls
All kids/younglings, who’d been hand fed as babies, so they were kept in a cage, but will be moved as soon as possible.
We had 2 bunny families from the beginning; 2 moms with their babies. They were kept in “the nursery” to protect the small bunnies from rats, amongst others.
Update: the bunnie babies were sold and the moms returned back “home” to the larger enclosures.
1 injured owl
He was pretty angry most of the time, although he never attacked me while feeding him.
Update: one morning I unfortunately found this owl dead. He’d been very injured when he arrived at Chipangali, so they’d been forced to amputate one of his wings. While it did seem as he was doing fine, for a while, I’m sorry to say he didn’t make it in the end, which made me feel really sad…
1 injured eagle
He had some problem with one of his talons.
Update: I’m not really sure where he was moved…
1 peacock with baby
They were kept in “the nursery”, because other birds had attacked her babies.
Update: they were re-released into the larger bird enclosure, as the baby grew bigger.
1 bird of some kind with her tiny mini-baby (I believe it might have been a Guinea fowl, but I’m not completely sure)
They were put in “the nursery” because the baby had managed to escape a couple of time; squeezed himself through the fence of their home, hence he fell into the dangerous world on the outside. So during repair of the larger enclosure they had to stay with us!
For a while there we had an awful lot of baby tortoises, but one morning when we arrived the rats had had a party over night and ate 2 of them, so they were moved into the “boss” Nix’s house, to be safe.
Update: now they are on the way to be free tortoises, I heard…
And a whole bunch of mealworms!
All of the above mentioned were kept in “the nursery”, but we also had to feed and take care of other animals around the park. For example, the squirrels (and the baby squirrels) – well, those kept in cages anyway. There are plenty of squirrels around the park; some who previously lived in cages, but was released, and some who simply are wild from beginning to end. The ones outside the cages feed themselves.
Bush babies – the cutest, sweetest little things…
Within our area of responsibility we also had night apes/bush babies (and during my time we also got a new addition – a small tiny baby – not really clear where it came from really, but it seemed likely (!) that one of them mated with another one – they kept several together in the same cage, and all of them were from the beginning males – or so they thought… 😉 Obviously, it turned out, that at least one of them was a female, thus the birth of the sweetest baby: Smeagol). There were also chickens, a chameleon, some random birds, etc.
So, first thing in the morning at 0800, the first feeding started, and we also cleaned the cages from feces and old left over meat/food in general, washed the water bowls and/or whatever was needed.
Usually this was a 30-60 minute job, depending on how many we were, and depending on how swiftly we worked! Also depending on how many who just stood watching while the rest of us worked our asses off… at times there could be plenty of spectators with their arms crossed!
After feeding no 1 we usually went to catch grasshoppers for the chameleon and the night apes. The last day I actually caught grasshoppers by hand for the first time! Mighty proud over this really weird task!
With this quality net I learned to catch grasshoppers!
My first contact with this task was to spontaneously react with puzzlement.
Suddenly I remembered a comment I’d received on Facebook about a year ago, where one of my friends, in response to something animal related I’d had shared, asked if it was ethically right to kill one animal in order to feed another.
I had absolutely no clue what he was on about; this is how nature works. I thought. Animals eat each other! Totally normal…
My first day on Chipangali I suddenly understood exactly what he’d meant. It didn’t feel quite right running around catching living creatures just to hand them over for food to another creature. But I fought this impulse, and caught the insects; after some time I stopped reflecting on the ethics of the deed. In all honesty, I think it helped me thinking: “but they are “mere” insects!”
We caught 100 every day – 20 for the chameleon and the rest for the night apes, who in spite their immense cuteness totally brutally could bite the grasshoppers’ heads off as soon as they got the chance!
TEA TIME! 0945 – 1015 (kind of)
Tea Time meant a break, so we chilled, drank enormous amounts of fluids during the hottest days and avoided the rain during the wettest days. After the break we continued with our duties, which could be anything from painting, to cuddling, OR the most exciting task I’ve ever experienced: moving crap around!
Creating order in this mess…
My very first day I was out collecting trash along the main road. This made me acutely remember why I despise humans in general – those weird things I had to pick up/collect… OMG, I don’t understand my own race – at all! Many times I had to stop myself; just breathe in, breathe out, and calm down. And then I got heatstroke and had to rush straight to bed!
Walking around with our bags collecting trash!
During my first days I had the honour to be ordered (!) to spring clean the fridge as well as the whole kitchen – which was fun and something I’d really wanted to do since I first entered the kitchen!
It was fun actually, just because it was so dirty, and there were plenty of rotten, moldy fruit and veggies in the fridge, which I gave to the primates, because apparently they don’t care. The result was amazing, of course, although the project did take 2 days, but then I did overdo it, as usual… Perfection in everything!
1100-1200 – Animal Time!
Animal Time = the best time of the day.
Every day we had 1 hour to hang out with which ever animal(s) we wanted, which was simply a dream, and quite frankly the real reason why I (everyone?) was there! So that was really appreciated.
I really wanted to sit close by the fence to be able to reach them, pet them and cuddle, so the best times were actually when we were alone. The owners didn’t really want us jumping over the fences while there were guests in the park, because that would naturally make the guests want to do the same!
Usually we weren’t allowed to enter the larger animals’ cages, but it was pretty cosy just hanging out close by the fence – you could reach them quite good anyway, since they came really close.
I usually also took a long walk before dinner, to be able to hang out with my favourites again. Most of the animals are more active during the evening than they are during the day, plus there were no guests in the area, so I could do almost whatever I wanted.
1200-1300 – Lunch Break
1300 – fed/watered some of the babies
After the second feeding/watering we simply continued on with our duties, unless our boss Nix had other plans for us.
1600 – Supper for the babies
1700 – The end!
So this sums up a completely regular work day on Chipangali; 0800-1700. Sundays were half days and Mondays were free (even though we had half days and free days, we still had to do the babies – at 0800, 1300 and 1600).
It was pretty hard work all day, every day, and there were always something you could do, some project to deal with. I enjoyed my time there, in spite of the heavy work, which I’m not really used to. In my real job I’m more used to working with my brains, and this was far from that enormous mental work load/stress! 😛 Besides, here I felt my work mattered, and the animals benefitted from it, so I believe that’s why I enjoyed it.
This was my very first volunteer journey, but it definitely won’t be the last. And I really hope I’ll revisit Chipangali, for I already think of it as my second home… ❤